It has been a tough few weeks for Carlos Betancur (AG2R-La Mondiale), following a spectacular start to the season, when he triumphed in the Tour du Haut Var and then became Colombia’s first ever winner of Paris-Nice.
However since then the 24-year-old had to abandon both the Volta a Catalunya and the Vuelta al País Vasco, telling the BiciCiclismo website after he quit in the second stage of the Basque race that he “lacked the strength to pedal.” He was also suffering from a knee injury from which fortunately he has now recovered.
Betancur finished an unremarkable 65th in Amstel Gold, his first race back after País Vasco - although that was a better result than his abandon in 2013. He then took a more encouraging 36th in La Flèche Wallonne. He is aiming, at the very least, to continue the upward progression on Sunday in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
“Amstel wasn’t so good, but in Flèche was a little better and let’s hope that on Sunday it’s much better,” Betancur told Cyclingnews.
“Liège is a very long race, and a race like that is so hard it has no secrets, normally when I’m going well, I can get a good result in that kind of event.”
This is no exaggeration. Last year Betancur captured an impressive third in Flèche and fourth in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, in what was his first ever participation in either Classic.
One reason that neither race holds too many secrets for Betancur is thanks to his trainer, former Classics great Michele Bartoli who won Liège-Bastogne-Liège twice, in 1997 and 1998 and Fleche Wallonne in a snowstorm in 1999.
“He’s talked to me a lot about them”, Betancur says with a hint of a grin. And with Bartoli present in the Ardennes Classics this week - on Friday the Italian acted as a guide for the Lampre-Merida team on their race reconnaissance of the LBL route - Bartoli will doubtless be amongst the first to congratulate Betancur in person should his pupil turn in a successful ride on Sunday.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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